Like any parent, you want your child to have some great friends to play with, confide in, and share life with. But as a parent of a child with autism, friends might be something you’re concerned about. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with your son or daughter. They’re simply wired a little differently than neurotypical children and may have trouble picking up on social cues like:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Hand gestures
- Figures of speech
Children with autism may also illustrate behaviors and use language that may seem out of the ordinary for neurotypical children. And that can make kids a little unsure how to make friends with a fellow peer with autism.
But that doesn’t mean your son or daughter with autism can’t make friends. They just may need a little more help and guidance!
Tips for How to Help Your Child Make Friends
Of course, every child is wonderfully unique, as is every situation. As you read through the below tips, please keep your child, their level of need, and your family situation in mind.
Your son or daughter doesn’t need to change who they are just to make friends.
Like neurotypical children, they have to learn social cues and communication skills. With that said, making friends with autism may take a little longer. Just try to be patient and do your best to support your son or daughter as you navigate making friends together.
Get Autism Therapy Support
Early intervention into working with your child to reduce challenging behaviors and learn important communication and social skills is key to helping your child with autism make friends.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is one of the most studied and proven effective therapy methods for helping children with autism. The aim of ABA is not to change who your child is.
With the help of a certified Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), ABA therapy can create an individualized therapy program to introduce and build new skills and eliminate unwanted behaviors.
And at The Autism Therapy Group in Lombard, IL, we understand how crucial your role as a parent is in helping your child with autism learn and grow. In our ABA therapy program, we make sure we discuss your child’s customized therapy program with you so you can continue working on the skills they learn while at home, in public, and while making new friends.
Practice Skills in Comfortable Settings
Many children with autism are triggered by social situations where they don’t know anyone. This is especially true with there is a lot of noise and activity. As you and your child work through learning new social and communication skills, it’s a good idea to start practicing them in familiar, comfortable settings.
You can create scenarios with your child and their siblings or other family members where they need to learn skills such as:
- Taking turns
- Starting a conversation
- Working through disagreements
- Reading body language and facial expressions
Because your child is familiar with family members, practicing new skills will come more easily since they won’t be anxious or worried about unfamiliar surroundings and people.
Take Advantage of Support Groups
Support groups for parents of children with autism are excellent resources. Not only can you as a parent feel comforted knowing you aren’t alone in some of your struggles, but they also give you a great opportunity to network with other families of children with autism looking to make friends.
Even if you can’t find any local in-person support groups, you are likely to find one online. Check out social media support groups or ask your local ABA therapy provider if they know of any in your area.
Let Others’ Know Your Goals
When navigating how to help your child with autism make friends, you can feel a little like you have the world on your shoulders. But think about other supportive individuals in your child’s life like their teachers, IEP team, and even adult family members. Let them know you are working on helping your child make new friends. Let them in on what your son or daughter is focusing on in their ABA treatment program and give them the inside scoop on how they can help, guide, and support your child to making friends with autism.
Plan Social Activities
This tip is reserved for when you feel most comfortable practicing new skills. You know your child best, so you have the greatest understanding of when they might be ready.
You can start by attending social events at an ABA provider like The Autism Therapy Group. Many providers offer scheduled group time where children can practice socializing with other children their age. This is an excellent way for your child to practice what they learn in one-on-one ABA therapy.
Once you feel your child is ready to have a couple of peers over to your house, find out if there is someone in their class they would like to be friends with and invite them over!
It’s important to take into consideration whether or not your son or daughter might not be comfortable with other people playing with their favorite things. If you think having that friend over might make for a little too much discomfort for your son or daughter, consider a trip to the park, playground, or museum.
Get the Support You Need
Making friends for anyone doesn’t happen overnight. And because children with autism are wired a little differently, it may take longer than anticipated.
And patience is key.
At The Autism Therapy Group, we understand the struggles that come with being a parent, including the unique struggles that come with being a parent to a child with autism. But having us in your corner to support and guide you and your child is something you don’t want to miss out on.
If you’re in the Lombard, IL area, or close to any of our other locations, we’d love to meet you and your child to show you how we can not only help them learn and grow but help them discover their untapped potential to make friends!